Pirates of Charleston

 

By: Staff Editor, Charleston Harbor Tours
March 24, 2016

Pirate, Charleston, SC

Charleston in the Age of Pirates

One of the unique aspects of Charleston, SC tours is the vast array of experiences that await the visitor, across centuries of local history. In a city as old as Charleston SC (346 and counting!) visitors can choose from tours highlighting Colonial times, antebellum history, Plantation culture and the Civil War. But there is another fascinating period waiting to be discovered, one full of mystery and myth, where legend has a way of replacing fact: the Pirate era.

Booming Trade, Booming Piracy

When Charleston SC was found in 1670, it was at the height of the Pirate Age. Charleston was a remote port in a remote colony on a remote continent, yet alive with maritime trade criss-crossing the Atlantic and the Caribbean. The growth of trade far outpaced Europe's ability to protect its merchant ships. In particular, the Spanish were unearthing tons of gold and silver from their mines in Mexico and shipping it back home by the boatful.

Blackbeard: Pirate and Showman

For the pirate, it was a target-rich environment. And none terrorized the seas with as much flair as Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. Like many who would take up the pirate flag, Teach was a Royal Navy man, battle-hardened during the great naval wars of the day. Now, as those wars had subsided, he was out of work.

History maintains that Blackbeard, captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge, was not the most successful pirate, and hardly the most bloodthirsty. He understood image-building, however. With his wild appearance (the long, black beard) and his fearsome battle flag (a skeleton piercing a heart while saluting Satan), he apparently had more success by threatening violence rather than actually using it.

The End of the Pirate Age

Eventually, the Crown decided to put an end to the Caribbean pirate scourge once and for all. Warships set out from England, along with an offer of Royal pardon for each pirate who willingly gave up his trade. Teach accepted his pardon, but he would not take to the straight and narrow so easily. Before long he was back to plundering, and was eventually hunted down and killed on the orders of the Governor of Virginia.

A Blackbeard lieutenant, Stede Bonnet, met a similar fate. "The Gentleman Pirate" also accepted his Royal pardon, and also backslid into the pirate life. He and members of his crew were captured, stood trial, and were hanged in Charleston's White Point Gardens. Today, a memorial stone stands in the downtown park, commemorating a cast of colorful characters and an interesting moment in Charleston and American history.

Charleston Harbor Tours Celebrates the Age of Pirates

With a selection of boat cruises, downtown bus tours and plantation tours, the Pirate Age is just one of the fascinating historical eras brought to life by Charleston Harbor Tours. Visit us on the web or call (888) 224-5037 to book your Charleston SC tour today!

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